The Bitter Celebrates – a poem by Robert Okaji

The Bitter Celebrates

Mention gateways and mythologies
and I see openings to paths
better left unseen. No choice is

choice,
but preparation leads us astray as well.
Take this bitter leaf.
Call it arugula.
Call it rocket.
Call it colewort or weed.
Dress it with oil and vinegar,
with garlic and lemon.
Add tomato, salt.

Though you try to conceal it,
the bitterness remains.

But back to gates and myths. Do they truly
lead us out, or do we
circle back, returning
to the same endings
again
and again.

Remove the snake, rodents return.

Seal the hole.
Take this leaf.
Voice those words.
Close that door.

Robert Okaji lives in Texas and occasionally works on a ranch. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Oxidant | Engine, Vox Populi and Ristau: A Journal of Being, and may also be found at his blog at https://robertokaji.com

Mary Magdalene – a poem by Rebecca Guess Cantor

Mary Magdalene

You know me.
I am long hair
and bare breast.
I am a flower—

a rose, a bough
with thorns.
I am creasing fabrics,
jewels, and parted

lips, a book open
upon my lap
or yours, a skull—
cold in my hands.

I am at the base
of that cross
in the hills
near the sea.

Fragrance, savory
and pure—I am
marble and silk,
pearl and myrrh.

I am your saint,
your whore,
a veil, a shroud,
your red, green,

blue. I am your
flame and fire—
penitent, defiant,
here. I am here

where you’ve
brought me
and molded me,
made me.

I am your creation,
your work of art,
and now you think
you know me.

Rebecca Guess Cantor’s first book, Running Away, was published last year by Finishing Line Press and her second book, The Other Half: Poems on Women in the Bible, is forthcoming from White Violet Press. Her poetry has appeared in The Cresset, Mezzo Cammin, Anomaly, Two Words For, Whale Road Review, Anomaly Literary Journal, and The Lyric among other publications. Rebecca is the Assistant Provost at Azusa Pacific University and lives in Fullerton, California.

Gifts – a poem by Sara Letourneau

Gifts

Why is it that, so often, we receive gifts
that we are not meant to keep?
Do we still thank the giver
for our wild and fleeting joy?
Do we steal the blessing home
and make space for it on a dusty shelf?
Yesterday I almost stepped on a turkey feather –
brown and white, slender and slightly curved,
longer than my forearm from shaft to tip.
I spun it between my fingers,
felt a slight give in the quill where it once
was joined with skin, and wondered
why it must hurt a bird so much
to molt this precious, deep-rooted part of itself
yet when we lose a strand of hair, we feel no pain.
So I gave the feather
back to the ground, where it belonged,
because no shelf, no picture frame,
no end table could replace
the warm and receptive cradle that is the earth,
because we have taken so much from the world
without permission
and now it is time to give something back.
Tell me, what would you have done
if you had stumbled upon such gold?
What will you do with that gift
if you know it can grace your hands
once and only once?

Sara Letourneau is a poet, freelance editor / writing coach, and columnist at the writing resource website DIY MFA. Her poems have appeared in or are forthcoming in Muddy River Poetry Review, Canary, The Curry Arts Journal, Soul-Lit, Eunoia Review, Underground Voices, and elsewhere. She lives in Massachusetts. https://saraletourneauwriter.com/

 

Sliver of Power – a poem by Ellen Austin-Li

Sliver of Power

We sheltered from August steam under fluttering oak leaves,
crescent moon shadows multiplying at our feet.
As moon began to overtake sun, we
stepped beyond shade to stand
where we were scorched
just moments before—
it was as if we stood
the same ground
on a different day,
twenty degrees cooler,
the sun’s light filtered
to a temperature more akin
to an autumn afternoon. Light
slipped from summer’s buttery yellow
to silvery sheen, the supernatural glow before
violent thunderstorms; birdsong silenced and crickets
soon filled the void with nighttime chirping. We hushed
as moon slid across sun, yet marveled at the power of sun,
who gave so much light with the smallest fraction of herself.

 

Ellen Austin-Li is a nurse reborn as an award-winning poet. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she participates in every writing workshop in her path. She has been published in Artemis, The Maine Review, Writers Tribe Review, Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel, and others.

Back – a poem by Wayne-Daniel Berard

Back

I found the back entrance
to the Garden of Eden
It’s made by slamming doors
not opening them
Slam! (step back) Slam!
(step) Slam! (step, turn)
And there you are
the unbelievability
of bougainvillea
the Baal Shem Tov
picks up scattered
alephbaits, JunoHera and
the Magdalene kiss as
fish and bicycles ignore
each other, Francis bathes
in Siloam, destigamatizing
stigmata, and I find
everything I lost. “Took
you long enough,” the angel’s
turned face smiles, one side
lit by flame, the other shaded
by the Tree.

Wayne-Daniel Berard teaches English and Humanities at Nichols College in Dudley, MA. Wayne-Daniel is a Peace Chaplain, an interfaith clergy person, and a member of B’nai Or of Boston. He has published widely in both poetry and prose, and is the co-founding editor of Soul-Lit, an online journal of spiritual poetry. His latest chapbook is Christine Day, Love Poems. He lives in Mansfield, MA with his wife, The Lovely Christine.

 

Five Barley Loaves and Two Fish – a poem by Mairi Murphy

Five Barley Loaves and Two Fish

Take my small offering
Make of it what you will
If it can expand the whole, so be it
If you need it to increase, increase it
But take it anyway, it’s all I have
If you need to keep it small for a time
I don’t mind, it will be transformed
When you are ready
To accomplish what must be done
I don’t mind being hidden
As long as you look after me
Keep me and my offering safe
Anything I can do for you
Is good enough for me.

Mairi Murphy is a graduate of Glasgow University’s MLitt course in Creative Writing where she was awarded the 2016 Alistair Buchan Prize for poetry. Her poems have been published in New Writing Scotland 30 and 35. Observance, her first poetry collection, was published by Clochoderick Press in March 2018.

Coronary Truth – a poem by Diane Elayne Dees

Coronary Truth

My friend calls to tell me
he’s had a heart attack.
I pace with the phone,
and through my kitchen window,
I see the season’s first oriole,
darting along the lawn
as if nothing amiss has occurred.
I listen to my friend describe
the pain—the trip to the e.r., the fight
with the nurse—while a chickadee
checks out an abandoned bluebird
nest. Only this morning, I struggled
to ignore the heaving in my own chest—
the clenched fist tightened around my
broken heart that renders me breathless.
Outside, tiny hearts flutter as feathers
whir by my window, brown leaves
are thrashed, and seed falls to the ground.
My friend makes heart attack jokes,
but I know he’s afraid. I am afraid: for him,
and for our hearts, no longer protected
by pure being, but rendered fragile
as hummingbird eggs by a lifetime
of confinement in human cages.

 

Diane Elayne Dees‘s poems have been published in many journals and anthologies. Diane, who lives in Covington, Louisiana, also publishes Women Who Serve, a blog that covers women’s professional tennis throughout the world. (https://womenwhoserve.blogspot.com)

Tortoise – a poem by John W. Steele

Tortoise

What if you were sitting, folded forward,
your legs stretched out along the ground, arms splayed
beneath your thighs and wrapped around your waist,
fingers clasped behind your back, shoulders
clamped down by your legs, face down in
the dirt between your calves? If you find
it hard to breathe, relax. You’re no ordinary
tortoise. Even here at ocean’s bottom

you can bear the pressure, plus Mt. Meru
on your back, with ease—of course it burns;
those gods and demons yanking on the snake
coiled round the mountain, twirling it to churn
the seven seas—making the elixir
of eternal life—what if this is it?

 

John W. Steele is a psychologist, yoga teacher and recent graduate of the MFA Creative Writing / Poetry Program at Western Colorado University, where he studied with Julie Kane, Earnest Hilbert and David Rothman. His poetry has appeared in Blue Unicorn, The Lyric, Society of Classical Poets and Boulder Weekly. Blue Unicorn nominated his poem “My Grandpa Lost” for the 2017 Pushcart prize. His poem, “Ignis Fatuus,” won The Lyric’s Fall 2017 quarterly award.

Finitude – a poem by M.J. Iuppa

Finitude

Night’s forced air leaves
fire to smolder in its pit
like sleep’s barter—
hidden prayer offered
in the veil of smoke
lifting— over-
head.

 

M.J. Iuppa ‘s fourth poetry collection is This Thirst (Kelsay Books, 2017).For the past  29 years, she has lived on a small farm near the shores of Lake Ontario. Check out her blog: mjiuppa.blogspot.com for her musings on writing, sustainability & life’s stew.

History – a poem by Julian Nangle

History

Feeble words fill the room’s dark duty
Rain slams against the roof above their heads
As two friends engage in final whispers
One, immobile, placid, his face disfigured
By loss of energy, by approaching death,
The other, white haired, offensively fit.

They sit together, close, one last time
Reminiscing through bleary eyes
Over past epiphanies and small awakenings
Resist spinning the tongue like a wheel of fortune
To see where the arrow of thought lands, finally;
They know its direction, that nothing can be done
That any battles to be fought have already been won.

Julian Nangle is 70 years old, is married and has had 5 children, and now has 11 grand children. He is a poet, publisher (as Words Press), rare book dealer (as Words Etcetera) and psychotherapist. He has been writing poems since he was in his teens and published some in the little magazines during the 60’s and 70’s. He has produced 4 collections of poems, the last being ‘Windfalls’ in 2014. He is poetry editor for the magazine Self & Society. In September 2017 he lost his youngest daughter to cancer which has prompted many poems relating to grief and loss. The poem published here is just one of them.